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Monday, June 30, 2014

Send the DOE and the Mayor a message today -- so that class sizes don't grow even larger next year



On Saturday, the NY Post reported on the rapid expansion of class sizes in the NYC public schools.  Not only have class size averages increased to their highest level in 15 in grades K-3, and the highest levels in grades 4-8 since 2002, but last year more than 330,000 students were sitting in classes of 30 or larger – substantially more than the year before.  

Sadly, there is nothing in your child’s school budget or nearly any NYC school budget that will likely reverse this trend.  Except for major increases in spending for preK, afterschool, and charter schools, school budgets are flat at best, and given increased teacher salaries and student enrollment, class sizes will likely rise to even greater levels next year.  

This is unless the mayor and the Chancellor make special efforts to reverse course – and revise their deeply flawed Contracts for Excellence plan which includes more than $500 million in spending, but includes no targeted or district-wide allocations for smaller classes, nor any realistic plan to reduce class size, though this is required by the C4E law, passed by the State Legislature in 2007:

In a city school district in a city having a population of one million or more inhabitants such contract shall also include a plan to reduce average class sizes, as defined by the commissioner, within five years for the following grade ranges: (A) pre-kindergarten-third grade; (B) fourth-eighth grade; and (C) high school.

Please email the DOE at ContractsForExcellence@schools.nyc.gov and let them know if you think they should be reducing class size – the deadline for public comments is July 19 -- and copy the mayor at bdeblasio@cityhall.nyc.gov.   Please also copy us at info@classsizematters.org

Urge them to live up to their promises to NYC children and create a real class size reduction plan instead of the fundamentally defective proposal they have put forward.  If you like, you can copy us at info@classsizematters.org   A sample message is below. 

When running for mayor, Bill de Blasio made repeated promises to reduce class size if elected, including that he would abide by the plan submitted by the city in 2007 that called for class sizes on average of no larger than 20 in grades K-3, 23 in 4th-8th grades and 25 in HS – and if necessary, to raise revenue to do so.   (See for example, p. 4 of this NYC KidsPAC candidate survey, and p.2  of this document de Blasio personally filled out and signed at a mayoral forum on June 14, 2013.)

Yet the C4E proposal the DOE has posted for next year would allot no specific dollars to reduce class size, and would instead allow schools to use these funds six different ways, including minimizing class size INCREASES, which no rational person can interpret as a commitment to lower class size.  

Their proposed plan is a continuation of the dismal Bloomberg era, in which the DOE has used these dollars for the last seven years as a slush fund to finance its own priorities – and then gave whatever was left over for schools to fill in whatever budget gaps they had.  We have seen the deplorable consequences: class sizes growing out of control. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. 

To make things worse, the DOE ended the early grade class size funding program in 2010 which they had promised to keep, and stopped capping class sizes at 28 in the early grades in 2011.  None of these policy choices have been reversed by the new administration. 

The city’s posted plan appears to subvert the law in at least two ways:  A) It provides no evidence that it will lead to smaller classes.  2) It admits that the funds are being used to supplant (or substitute) for its own budget cuts to schools. 

Please submit your comments to today – the deadline is July 19 – by emailing them at ContractsForExcellence@schools.nyc.gov and copy the Mayor at bdeblasio@cityhall.nyc.gov
A sample message is below – but if you can, please personalize this message by including details of your child’s situation and explain why this issue is important to you.

 

Class sizes are now larger than any time in 15 years in the early grades, and this year, more than 330,000 children were squeezed into classes of 30 or more.  If enacted, your Contracts for Excellence proposal would allow this unacceptable situation to worsen.  It contains no specific funding to reduce class size, even though a plan to lower class size is a required part of the law, and instead allows schools to use these funds to increase class size.

If this proposal is not substantially revised, under your watch, class sizes will be even larger next year.  I urge you to revise this proposal by taking the following steps, at minimum: 

1- Invest a substantial share of the C4E funds as part of a targeted initiative towards lowering class size and make sure that these dollars are spent accordingly; 2- Restore the early grade class size reduction program that the DOE eliminated in 2010; and 3- Return to capping class sizes in grades 1-3 at 28.    

NYC children deserve a quality education and this cannot happen without providing them with smaller classes.

Yours,  name and address.

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